So which is the best mobile keyboard 2014

PhotographerCindy J Grady
I have been lucky enough to experienced using keyboards on iOS, Android and Windows Phone (8 and 8.1) which has really shown me how important a good input method is in the mobile experience.

Each keyboard has unique features which makes choosing the best keyboard a bit of a struggle. Until recently I had completely dismissed iOS keyboard for the following reasons

1. 4" display means that the keys are harder to press accurately
2. Selecting & deleting words is trickier than both Android and Windows Phone not just due to the smaller target area, but also the implementation requires a "long press" to activate the magnifying glass to achieve accurate cursor location.
3. Lack of swype / shape writing style input.

While options 1 and 2 were of just minor inconvenience option 3 is a major issue.

Swyping / Shape writing

There are three great features of shape writing

1. It is a much faster input method on the whole than key pressing as demonstrated by the numerous keyboards of this style achieving Guiness World Records.

2. It allows a more generalised area of keypress which is of great advantage on a smaller screen, or even allows you to cope with a smaller keyboard on a larger screen giving the benefit of seeing more of what you have typed so far.

3. The input can be done at full speed with a single digit. Rather than the common double thumb entry for iOS to generate speed shape style writing can be performed one handed.

What Does iOS have up its sleeve

Historical Autocorrect

Obviously we have all had a laugh at damn you autocorrect and probably have received a couple of weird messages due to autocorrection errors. However, autocorrection is pretty clever, but on iOS it actually tracks back up to 4 words based on what you are entering and can correct the 4th word. Contextually autocorrecting 4 words back will tend to help weed out a huge number of errors, and is certainly a clever feature to have,

Cross Platform Support

Apple has always integrated its devices well, anyone with an iPad, Apple TV and Mac will know that so many things transfer relatively seamlessly across without the need to be tech-savvy. iMessages synchronising with your devices is a good example of this. Well the iOS keyboard has another one of these clever features, simply create keyboard macros on your Mac and they are straight away available on your iPhone and iPad.

While the stock Android keyboard offers keyboard macros (as well as some less popular alternatives) these macros are limited in length. If for example you had a long HTML sign off signature you were particularly proud of this would probably be too big for the dictionary. However, Kii keyboard will store macros that are large enough, but the dictionary does not sync across devices, so you need to re-enter any macros on all devices you want to use.

Is this enough?

I can understand that these features can be sufficient to turn the tide for some, but shape writing is such a massive time saver for 99% of the text I input that synced macros is simply not important enough. So sadly iOS keyboard is ruled out of the running, leaving Google Keyboard, Windows 8.1, Swype, Swiftkey, SlideIT & Kii.

Google Keyboard

Google have built a very good basic keyboard. It is fast and responsive, even on lower end devices, which is not true of some of the other options. I have found it to be quite accurate and fast, and is my recommendation if you have a slower device as there is nothing quite as frustrating as a sluggish keyboard response.

SwiftKey

SwiftKey recently became free, which is quite a bonus in its favour. The next work predictions are quite scary, it makes you realise just how much you repeat yourself and various phrases. I find this aspect a bit creepy almost as if it knows what you are about to say. It does however, inspire me to try and vary my language a bit more almost like a challenge to say, "No you are wrong! I was actually going to use a 16th century old English word, take that dictionary!"

This is probably the second best keyboard for non-shape writing input, with iOS beating it and Windows 8.1 coming in a very close third. I know that some people cannot get on with shape writing and if you are one of those then SwiftKey is probably your best bet on Android.#

SlideIT

I will be brief about SlideIT to save you sometime, the predictions are not a good as the other options, it does seem to be relatively low on resources, but overall the other options including the stock keyboard are superior.

Kii

Kii tries to be a combination of SwiftKey and Swype, the options available are staggering it definitely has the best options for personalisation. I have found that its predictions are good, but not the best and so I am not placing it at the top, however, there are some relatively unique features such as dual language input to allow seemless corrections for bi-lingual users (no dictionary switching required) and the ability to customise the size and placement of the keyboard. Kii is certainly worth a try and you may find that the personalisation options make it the best option for you.

Swype

Swype continues to offer the best predictions and best corrections. By comparison I rarely find the need to go back and make corrections. It is nearly perfect, but there are a couple of let downs. I always turn off Dragon Speak as I find it is very bad at managing to identify anything I say, this means there is no quite way of activating Google voice for dictation. This is a minor inconvience for me, but I could see others finding it a deal breaker. I would also love to be able to customise symbol key placement and perhaps create gestures like Kii offers. It does over some very useful customisation in the form of keyboard size and placement, which can allow you to perform one handed typing on a much larger device. I have found it possible to shape write one handed on a Nexus 7 without issue and with many devices pushing 6" it could be of great benefit to many.

Fundamentally the accuracy and the best autocorrection leads me to choose Swype as the best Android Keyboard, but is it the best keyboard of all?

Windows 8.1

Windows 8 has very good correction algorithms for corrections making it one of the best keyboards for typing, but 8.1 introduced shape writing. The accuracy of the shape writing is similar to that of Swype, leading to rarely requiring post writing corrections. It also has a couple of unique features, you can for example add or remove capitalisation from an already complete word just by placing the cursor in it and pressing shift. Additionally the voice recognition is of a similar quality to that of Google's and with this minor addition I would rate the keyboard as a fraction above Swype's offering, making the Windows 8.1 keyboard the best mobile keyboard. Sadly it is only available on Windows Phone, and the Windows Phone platform while great in many ways is not the equal of Android right now.

iOS 8

One of the features that I am really interested in is iOS 8's opening up of the keyboards. I am really curious how many people will switch away to Swype or Swift key.

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